Here is a quick and easy list of five significant differences between LTL and truckload freight shipping.
SHIPMENT SIZE (volume and weight):
- LTL: Shipments are usually between one and six pallets, and weigh between 150 and 5,000 pounds, but LTL rates will apply up to 19,999 pounds. LTL freight takes up much less space on a truck; 6 pallets, placed side by side, would only occupy 12 linear feet in a trailer.
- Truckload: A full truckload shipment can contain 26 single-stacked pallets, or 52 double-stacked pallets. Truckload shipping weights range from 10,000 pounds up to 44,000 pounds.
- LTL: Carriers combine your freight and that from other vendors, so your load isn’t the only freight on the truck. Then, your freight will be moved from terminal to terminal until it reaches the final destination, so it makes many short moves until it is delivered – this adds transit time.
- Truckload: When your freight is shipped truckload, it is the only freight on the truck. The driver picks up your load at the origin and drives until reaching the destination. The only time your freight stops is to allow the driver to rest, fuel up, or because of mechanical issues with the truck or trailer.
HANDLING AND DAMAGE:
- LTL: Freight is handled a lot. It is handled when it is picked up, unloaded at a terminal, loaded back onto another truck, unloaded at another terminal, etc. With each move, there is opportunity for damage, and the longer the distance your freight must travel increases the risk of damage caused by handling.
- Truckload: With a truckload shipment, your freight remains on the truck, resulting in less handling and fewer opportunities for damage to occur.
- LTL: Pricing is the largest differentiator between LTL and truckload shipping. Each LTL freight carrier publishes its own rates, which are determined by National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number, origin ZIP, destination ZIP, and weight. The NMFC classifies LTL freight based on its density, stowability, ease of handling and liability.
- Truckload: Pricing is dependent upon the market. Truckload carriers do not have published rates; they determine pricing based on competition, season, the lane the freight is traveling in, type of equipment needed, and the difficulty of the freight move. Truckload rates fluctuate by the season, month, and even by the week.
TEMPERATURE CONTROLLED SHIPPING:
- LTL: Refrigerated LTL trucks are harder to find than dry vans, so they are more expensive than standard LTL. In addition, LTL reefer carriers have consistent routes they run, which might not fit your shipment’s origin and destination.
- Truckload: Temperature controlled trailers are readily available, and since your freight is the only load in the trailer, can be kept anywhere from below zero to around seventy degrees. Expect to pay more for a refrigerated trailer than a dry van.